Ask the Coordinators- Timeline tips

Mary C. asks: “I am getting further into planning and need some advice on timeline for the day. Do you have examples of a traditional itinerary or order of events for a ceremony and reception?”

Autumn Tall | Michael Murphy IV PhotographyAutumn says: “We can definitely give you information on traditional order of events and timeline!

“A standard ceremony would begin with the processional, which starts with seating of the grandparents and parents. The mother of the bride is traditionally the last to be seated before the wedding party begins. The wedding party members are next, which can be just bridesmaids with the groomsmen already waiting at the altar, or the groomsmen can accompany the bridesmaids down the aisle. And saved for last is of course, the bride!

“Once the bride has arrived at the altar, the officiate has an opening statement leading into the symbolic “giving away” of the bride. The officiate then gives the message before leading into the Declaration of Intent (the I-do’s). The vows are next, followed by the exchanging of rings. If you choose to have a special ceremony, such as a unity ceremony, that would come next. After the officiate’s closing statement is the first kiss! The bride and groom then begin the Recessional, followed by the bridal party, parents, and other guests.

“Following the ceremony, guests transition into cocktail hour while the family and wedding party are taking pictures. Most of the time pictures take about an hour. The reception then kicks off with the announcement in of the wedding party. Traditional timeline following the announcement in goes into toasts, prayer, then dinner service. After dinner comes the cake cutting, first dance and other special dances. Once all the formalities are finished it is time to let loose and dance the night away! Sometimes we see couples choose to have their first dance or cut the cake right after getting announced in, before toasts, as it helps get those events out of the way so after dinner can transition more quickly into dancing. If you have any events planned for later in the evening, such as a dollar dance, bouquet toss, etc., your DJ will usually find a good time once the dancing is in full swing.

“For a more detailed breakdown of how the timing typically looks for the above itinerary, here is a typical timeline for a 3:00pm and 5:00pm ceremony and reception:

3:00pm Ceremony

  • 3:00-3:30 – ceremony
  • 3:30-4:30 – cocktail hour
  • 4:35 – wedding party announced in
  • 4:45 – toasts/prayer
  • 5:00 – dinner
  • 5:45 – cake cutting
  • 6:00 – special dances
  • 6:15 – guest dancing
  • 10:00 – reception end

5:00pm Ceremony

  • 5:00-5:30 – ceremony
  • 5:30-6:30 – cocktail hour
  • 6:35 – wedding party announced in
  • 6:45 – toasts/prayer
  • 7:00 – dinner
  • 7:45 – cake cutting
  • 8:00 – special dances
  • 8:15 – guest dancing
  • 11:00 – reception end

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